by Greg Staley, CEO of SynergySuite
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has devastated the restaurant industry. Closures, restrictions, shortages, and other disruptions have put many restaurants out of business and set many more back in ways that will take years to recover from. According to the National Restaurant Association, sales revenue was $240 billion lower than expected in 2020, and the pandemic set restaurant growth back by 6 years.
Restaurants had to pivot quickly, either improving or offering for the first time things like delivery, takeout, online ordering, and more to try and navigate a restaurant industry that changed overnight. Now we are seeing promising signs – restrictions lifting, vaccines rolling out and warmer weather making outdoor dining easier.
As you move out of survival mode into recovery mode, it won’t be enough to simply go back to the way things were. The pandemic has accelerated shifts in customer preferences, your margins are still rebounding, and employee burnout is high. However, there are things you can do to meet guest needs and streamline your business in a way that will help drive growth as well as set you up for ongoing success even after the pandemic is behind us.
I believe there are a few types of restaurant technology that you need to look at if you want to accelerate recovery.
1. Modern Labor Scheduling
Competition for labor is on the rise again, and many employees are feeling burnout from working through the pandemic. Providing them with simple tools to easily manage their schedules is a valuable way to not only optimize your schedule but also make life easier for your employees.
Pen and paper schedules or more basic online scheduling tools make writing schedules time consuming for managers, frustrating for employees, and prone to errors like over or underscheduling. If you want to return to higher profitability, you can’t afford high turnover or labor that’s mismatched with demand.
Modern labor tools allow employees to see and manage their schedules from their phones – requesting time off, swapping shifts, picking up open shifts and setting availability. This means they can more easily manage their work around school, childcare or a second job, reducing turnover.
Plus, in newer systems, managers don’t have to write the schedule. Instead, the labor management system builds an optimized schedule based off sales forecasts, and managers can make any tweaks if needed as well as easily approve any changes requested by employees.
All of this makes you a more competitive employer, reducing turnover and freeing up managers to work on other things during a volatile period of recovery.
2. Online Ordering and Payment
Most restaurants added or expanded their capacity to take online orders and payment as soon as it became clear COVID-19 would mean more than a two-week shutdown. However, now that more diners are choosing to dine in again doesn’t mean you can cut online ordering.
Pre-pandemic diner preferences were already shifting to off prem, and COVID-19 only accelerated an already existing trend. Off prem will be higher than it was prior to the pandemic and you need to be ready to accommodate these needs.
If you had a haphazard online ordering and payment solution before, or you’d only implemented as much as you needed to get it running, it’s time to go back and make sure you have a fully functioning system. Guests will have varying comfort levels around dining in, others have simply gotten used to the convenience of takeout, and ensuring your technology accommodates the way many customers will order is critical to your success.
3. Inventory and Purchasing
Many restaurants were caught off guard when shortages early in the pandemic spiked the price of meat or cleaning supplies. Fluctuations in both supplies and in customers meant managing inventory and purchasing was more difficult than ever before and many restaurants had to be nimble.
Now that business is normalizing more, you can focus on optimizing inventory and purchasing processes to add points to your bottom line. Newer inventory systems should integrate with POS systems to give you real-time theoretical numbers, as well as make it simpler to reconcile with actual inventory on whatever cadence you prefer.
Pandemic recovery will go more smoothly if you have a system in place to reduce food waste and theft, as well as correctly reconcile deliveries from your suppliers. These all contribute to thinner margins and finding the right inventory and purchasing technology for your restaurant will help with profitability.
Restaurant recovery from the pandemic is going to be a long process for everyone, but you can give your business a leg up by finding the right technology to help you out. Focus on systems that can fulfill evolving customer preferences, help fight employee burnout, and lower prime costs. Investing in new tech will help set you apart from competitors and ensure you have a solid foundation to weather any ongoing fluctuations as diners figure out their new normal.
About the Author
Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information or to discuss SynergySuite’s solutions, please contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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